Hi guys. Siya Kolisi had a great game this weekend against the Crusaders so I thought this is a good time to take a look at our Bok captain and how he is performing. Especially because not many people knows how to properly judge a openside flank…
Let us take a look!
One of the main jobs, if not a main job, of a openside flanker is to protect the possession of his own team. He must be a player with pace and anticipation so he can get to attacking breakdowns all across the field, but he must also have strength and size to make a impact.
The picture below is a example of what we mean. The Crusaders testing Senatla with a high ball, so Stormers support had to run backwards to help. First on scene was Siya, who immediately seal over Seabelo and then fight off the counter ruck of Goodhue and Todd.
In this game Siya attended 19 rucks in total, and that is the most of the Stormer players. This workrate is not a easy thing for fans to see because our focus is usually on the more sexy passage of play. But below we can see Siya in the act of being a good openside. He cleaned at a ruck on the right, there was one more ruck, and now he is back in play and he will clean at a ruck on the left. The openside is the oil that keep the machine running.
If your openside is cleaning a lot, that will usually mean that he is not carrying so much, because his main task is support the carriers. But that don’t mean Siya can’t carry when he want to… He run with the ball 5 times in the match, making many meters and scoring 1 try. A big advantage that Siya have is that he is powerful in the tight, but he can also be elusive in the loose. As we see with his try below, he run a beautiful line to hit the gap and then step the last defender to score.
Siya also show off his skill and workrate in this game. On two different occasions he offload to a player and then immediately get up and was the first arrival to clean when that player get tackled. Now that is value for money! Below we see him offload to Senatla, and then immediately getting up where he will blast Bridge off the ball.
A openside flank of course have a huge role in defence as well. He must be able to operate with pace defending in wider channels but he must also be able to handle himself in heavy traffic. It don’t help if your flanks just make tackles, they must also be able to make dominant tackles.
Below we see Siya put the prop Allen back on his bum as the Crusaders try to build momentum. Siya made 9 tackles on Saturday and missed 2, and this is maybe a area for him to sharpen.
A further role of our openside is that he can be a fetcher. But the mistake people make is they think a openside MUST be a fetcher. This is not the case. The first reason is that your fetchers can be anywhere – it can be a 8th man, a hooker, outside senter, wing, or whatever.
The second reason is if you have too many “fetchers” in your pack (like we have Duane and Malcolm already) then you can become unbalanced on defence.
For instance the Lions sometimes struggled this year because they have too many guys in the pack who like to go for the ball. So what happen when these guys is all sniffing around the rucks is that the Lions then start to lose WIDTH and numbers in defence. By having too many people at the breakdowns, the Lions was eventually getting outnumbered on the outside (and then the poor wings get the blame!)
Above we see Siya showing very good judgment. He is not a type to naturally fetch anyway, but in this case he is watching Dan Kriel attack the breakdown and he is not rushing to join in. The Saders has the ball secured. Siya will instead stay out and help give the Stormers width and also numbers in defence so they can be more aggressive on the next phase.
The final reason why fans must not go crazy about having a pure “fetcher” flank is that it don’t actually pay off so much anymore… The new breakdown laws has made it much harder for pure jackals to have success, and the way refs seems to let players clean from the sides means the breakdown is not a place that is as rewarding as it was.
The final thing I want making mention of is Siya’s captaincy decision to go for poles to get the draw. He get a lot of criticism for this and I believe even the call from the coaches was to kick for the corner, but in my opinion Siya was correct. Why? Look at the picture below.
Like many teams today, the Crusaders does not contest lineouts near their own tryline. They will rather stay on the ground and be organised to smash or outmanoeuvre you as soon as your catcher land on the ground. So what we are seeing is that teams is scoring a lot less tries from mauls today. It is not the jackpot or the platform it use to be… On top of that, refs is blowing “use it” much sooner, so the window we have to set up a maul and to get that diesel engine going is now much shorter.
Crusaders has one of the best maul defence in the business and already turn back three previous Stormers mauls in this match, so it was wise to accept that and to rather come away with “guarantee” points than to take a longer shot to try win it.
Anyway guys, I was impress with Siya on Saturday and it was good to see him hitting form again. He is a great example of the “template” of a modern loose forward – the speed to get to where he need to be, but also big and powerful enough to make a proper impact. But more than that, he also have the attitude and the hard, “never-saying-die” approach that the Bok group is building on. As we saw in the victory against the All Blacks last year this is a team who don’t take a step backwards, and in their captain they have a guy who is more than happy to lead them into a fight.
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans